Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Ku-ring-gai Youth Support Services

Raise Foundation Turramurra High School 2019

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (18:29): Ku-ring-gai is a great place to bring up a family but growing up is not always easy. We all remember in our teenage years dealing with the emotional, psychological and social challenges of moving into adulthood. Our youth are not only our future but are a significant segment of our population. Approximately 31 per cent of Australia's young people between the ages of 12 and 25 live in New South Wales. They are 1.3 million in number and make up 17.7 per cent of the State's population. The New South Wales Government is committed to ensuring our young people have the best opportunity to achieve their full potential. Its Youth Health Framework 2017-24 has outlined a plan to make young people "healthy, safe and well".

Our schools are very important custodians of the wellbeing of our youth. I have received strong, positive feedback from our local school principals praising the recent increases in counselling services in our public schools. These services have been steadily improved by the Coalition Government over the past four years that I have been in Parliament. The recent New South Wales budget included implementation of the election promise to employ 100 additional school counsellors or psychologists and an additional 350 student support officers over the next four years.

I frequently try to understand and see on the ground the youth services that are available in Ku-ring-gai. In August I returned to Turramurra High School where I met with the students who are benefiting from the work of the Raise Foundation. The Raise Foundation delivers a very successful mentoring program, Youth Frontiers, which is run in partnership with schools and supported by the New South Wales Government. Their focus is to empower our youth to become resilient, capable and connected through what are structured, best practice programs. All mentors receive TAFE accredited training and are supported by a qualified program counsellor. The Raise mentors are an amazing community of volunteers who tell me that they receive a significant amount of personal satisfaction from being involved in the program. As I participated in the group activities prior to their one-on-one mentoring, I noticed the developing confidence of the year 8 and year 9 students. Youth Frontiers is a valuable program in our local community and for over three years has been impacting on the wellbeing of all involved.

The Ku-ring-gai Youth Development Service [KYDS] is a not-for-profit organisation located in Ku‑ring‑gai and Hornsby that aims to help young people understand and manage issues in their lives by providing personalised counselling, support services and wellbeing workshops. KYDS strives to ensure issues such as grief, friendship problems, body image concerns, depression, anger, anxiety and self-harm, to name a few, do not consume young people. I have been a regular at the KYDS annual fundraising lunch. Youth ambassador Sarah Ashton says that there is constant pressure on young people. She stated:

"When things aren't going well, kids tend to give up a lot easier, even on the small things. There are still many young people not knowing what their passions are."

KYDS ensures all young people in the community have access to the information and support they need in a safe and confidential environment. Young people are more fascinated with virtual worlds and technology than ever before and this has provided new wellbeing challenges. Cyber bullying, or bullying of any kind, leads to feeling powerless and alone, which increases the chance of a young person developing severe depression. That is where Lifeline Harbour to Hawkesbury, one of 40 centres across Australia, has had such a positive impact in my local area. They save lives by providing vital services to the community, including a 24-hour crisis support line and face-to-face counselling at their centre in Gordon. I am proud to be a supporter of Wendy Carver and her local team of amazing volunteers.

October is Mental Health Month and the continued collaboration between the New South Wales Government and non-government organisations is crucial to delivering accessible and effective wellbeing services. Ku-ring-gai is very fortunate to have Raise, KYDS and Lifeline performing such valuable work in our community. They are supporting engagement with education and employment and by doing so building healthier and more dynamic young people, who in turn will be better placed to make a strong contribution to our nation.